Are you wondering how to approach teaching writing in your homeschool? I’d like to introduce you to the Brave Writer program! Brave Writer is not just a homeschool writing program, but a lifestyle. Your children learn to incorporate writing into their everyday lives and find joy in it. They study the English language through appreciating great books, particularly poetry – as you’ll see from today’s topic, Poetry Teatime!
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Poetry teatime is a beautiful time in our weekly routine. We usually do either Saturday or Sunday so that Daddy can participate. We’ve also had weeks where Grandma, aunts, uncles, and even a 2 yr old cousin took part! (And of course our cats are in and out…)
We set the table with a tablecloth, candle, baked treat, juice for the kiddo, and tea for the grown ups. And books! Piles of poetry books to flip through.
Each week we begin by writing down the date and attendees in our logbook. I keep a running list of the books we’re using. If it seems memorable, I add in the menu and the music we’re playing. Aside from wanting to document the teatime for posterity, I find it helps so to keep track of what books we’re checking out from the library and what treats we’re serving, to ensure variety!
Our Teatime Routine
We go around the table reading aloud – sometimes full poems, sometimes snippets. We pick up books and put them down as the mood strikes. Sometimes a reader will stick with the same book for the entire session, or exchange it for a different one. Almost all of our books come from the library, since it would be impossible to maintain a big enough bookshelf of poetry if we had to buy everything!
If we come across a particularly fun or interesting poem, I copy it down in our logbook. Todays’s snippet, from the book Dinosaur Dances: Goodness gracious!/It’s Cretaceous/Party Time again!
After about 20-30 minutes, when all the treats have been eaten and everyone has had a chance to read several poems, we wrap up. Then we schedule the next Poetry Teatime on our calendar!
Poetry is fantastic for exploring word choice, rhythm, rhyming, and many other aspects of language. You can listen carefully for the meaning, or just let the general tone of it wash over you. My kindergartener loves funny poems (“I like noodles/Give me oodles/Noodles are my favorite foodles”) while my husband tends to pick lyrical, mystical sounding verses.
Poetry has gotten a bad rap in our culture. People think of highfalutin, impenetrable language. And indeed, some poetry might be pretentious or intentionally esoteric. But think about songs – what are they but poetry set to music? Didn’t Bob Dylan win a Nobel Prize in Literature?
Before starting Brave Writer, I’ll admit that poetry wasn’t my favorite. I didn’t even know where the poetry section in the library was. Now I look forward to finding new books for us to read every week!
So we do Poetry Teatime as part of our writing curriculum – though what we’re doing is reading! What’s that about?
Our celebration of poetry every week is a way of making language our own. We are practicing reading the way that writers read – paying attention to the way that the poets do their craft. The idea is to fill up our young writer with an arsenal of words, styles, and voices that he’ll be able to use later.
We are relatively new to Brave Writer, so we are slowly introducing the routines and skills. One of them that I’m just modeling for now is copywork. Basically, it’s writing down snippets or quotes from texts in your own handwriting. I try to select one poem to copy during each of our poetry teatimes. Eventually, I’ll ask that my son start doing the same.
(If you’re curious about how we do reading, check out this post: How to Teach Reading)
How to get started
You can make poetry teatime as simple or elaborate as you’d like! My advice is to make it special somehow – perhaps by using nicer dishes than usual, or putting on special music, or using a nice tablecloth. But the only two essential ingredients are:
- A selection of poetry books to choose from – get a bunch from the library if you don’t have a big poetry collection at home. It’s definitely helpful to have many books to choose from!
- A treat to eat – yes, this is important! You want to make it feel like a party!
What books to use
This is going to depend on the ages and interests of the participants. Here are a couple of our favorites (including a few that are written for multiple people to read aloud together):
And I’m sure there’ll be many more!